Archive for Wednesday, May 23, 2007

THS, MHS seniors celebrate graduation

Silverware plentiful, slackers few at THS

May 23, 2007

The stunt probably would have left Principal Strickland, the fictional character in the "Back to the Future" trilogy, with just one word to utter: "slackers."

At Saturday's Tonganoxie High School graduation at Betty Field, THS seniors had gifts for THS acting principal Brent Smith.

As Smith called the seniors' names one-by-one to the stage to receive their diplomas, some new graduates dropped off pieces of silverware at the podium.

The influx of silverware forced Smith to pause on occasion to move a horde of silverware from the top of the podium to a shelf within.

Smith, who estimated he received some 90 pieces of silverware, said some students handed him multiple spoons and forks.

But Smith knew beforehand something was afoot.

"A student said, 'They hoped that I had a good sense of humor,'" Smith recalled.

The principal was smiling after Saturday night's commencement exercises in which 113 THS seniors received diplomas.

Last year's graduates gave Smith marbles as they passed by the podium, so this was nothing new.

The stunt garnered chuckles from spectators, but there was more to the ceremony than the handing off of eating utensils.

It was announced that this year's class was awarded $523,250 in outside scholarships, hardly the work of a "slackers."

After graduation concluded, Smith talked about the Class of 2007 and its long list of successes in various activities.

"(They were) great academically and great athletically," Smith said. "Just a good group of kids ... smart kids in this class."

Davis, Fonkert at head of class

Two of the top academic students were honored for their accomplishments. John Davis was this year's valedictorian, while Mike Fonkert was named salutatorian.

In his valedictory express, Davis noted he and his classmates have evolved from freshmen embarking on the high school era to seniors closing a chapter of youth and starting a new one with college and careers.

"Well, I think of the continuing transition from childhood to adulthood that I've witnessed in myself and in my peers," Davis said. "The kids that you all knew four years ago have changed quite a bit. I've noticed cliques dissolving and becoming less exclusive. "My peers and I are developing clearer ideas about ourselves as people, discovering how we fit into this world. When I look back, it amazes me how far we have come in the last few years."

Davis further explained the crossroads where his class now stands.

"Hopefully this ceremony is a symbol for an end and a beginning; here we sort of shut the door on our childhoods, and, while we certainly have a lot of growing up to do, we will now begin to shoulder responsibilities for our own lives as we go out and get jobs, further our educations, buy nice cars and do whatever else suits our fancies.

"Congratulations, you're done, but the Earth isn't flat and the map doesn't end here; there is still much more to explore."

Later in his speech, Davis spoke in a more somber tone, noting he thought the world was heading into difficult times on a broader scale, touching briefly on global warming.

Tonganoxie High School graduated six additional seniors with 4.0 grade-point averages, including National Merit finalist Justin Smith, as well as Kezia Huseman, Sara Kotowske, Ali Pistora, Brad Robertson, Justin Smith and Shannon Smith.

The district utilizes ACT scores as a determining factor in the valedictorian and salutatorian selection process, and Davis and Fonkert had the top two scores in their class.

Getting it started

Class of 2007 president Tyler Miles gave the welcome address after he and 112 other seniors filed into stadium.

Miles quoted well-known author Henry David Thoreau: "If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in any common hour."

Miles related the quote to his class' current status.

"Today we embark on a journey to find our own paths and discover how we will define success for the rest of our lives," Miles said.

The senior discussed his class being part of "a generation characterized by technology, growth, commerce and high gasoline prices."

He urged his classmates to find their niche, their drive and their passion.

"Working for something that you simply do not love will never help you achieve your personal success," Miles said, adding that people must love their jobs, their family, loved ones, simply just life.

After Miles gave the welcome, a senior ensemble performed "My Wish," while the Chieftain Singers sang "Maybe Someday."

Smith then read a slew of awards and special announcements, while former THS principal and interim administrator Mike Bogart presented scholarships. Smith recognized Bogart for his assistance during the past weeks. Bogart came back to the school in light of principal Tatia Shelton's resignation in March.

Later in the ceremony came the moment family and friends with airhorns and cowbells eagerly anticipated -- the awarding of diplomas.

While some seniors accepted their diplomas wearing flip-flops, T-shirts and shorts beneath their gowns, one graduate donned a spiffy uniform. Shawn Sivyer, who is in his second year of high school Navy ROTC, wore his full naval regalia under his red THS gown. Sivyer said after graduation he was going through some courses and then would apply for the Kansas University Navy ROTC program.

After diplomas were awarded, graduates flung their caps into the air in traditional fashion, and, of course, sprayed each other with silly string.

Later Saturday, the graduates headed to IncrediBOWL in Overland Park for Project Grad festivities.

As for all that silverware, it turns out seniors "borrowed" it from the THS cafeteria and Pam Lamb's consumer science classroom.

On Monday, Smith said he returned the items to their rightful owners.

"I gave it back to the cafeteria and Pam Lamb," Smith said with a chuckle.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.